Second Hand and Older Models

You’ve stumbled upon the boat of your dreams and it has an Aries sitting on the back? That may be good news, but sometimes it is not. Here we’ll tell you a thing or two about the different models of the Aries Vane Gear and what might be signs to look for and how to separate the good from the bad.

Older Models

The Aries Vane Gear is the result of years and years of continuous development. Back in 1964 Nick Franklin built the first Aries and he has changed the design throughout the years. When Nick Franklin sold Aries in the early 90’s to Peter Matthiessen in Denmark, a lot changed. Franklin already (partially) switched to the metric system and Mathiessen continued along this route, making it easer to build the Aries in Europe and for many sailors to find spares.

Like Franklin, Matthiesen made certain changes to the design, making the Vane Gear even more like the Aries we know so well today. In the Netherlands, Lean Nelis, the current owner of Aries Vane Gear, made some more changes, to make the Aries a better, stronger and perfected autopilot. Alongside some bigger updates, smaller updates are always done. Such as the switch from hand lay-up of the pendulum rudders, to vacuum infusion. At Aries, we always want to make the best possible vane for our customers, so we are working to improve as we go.


Nick Franklin Aries Vane Gear
Nick Franklin at work in his workshop
Lean Nelis Aries Vane Gear
Lean Nelis servicing an Aries

Standard, Circumnavigator & Lift-Up

Since the first Aries Vane Gear in the early sixties, there have been at least seven models. The first ones are beautiful, but hardly recognisable as an Aries, compared to the current model. Over the course of some decades, the design changed, materials changed, and imperial made way for metric.

A model that we still see a lot today is the famous Lift-Up model, which in fact has also known different designs, some imperial, some metric, some stainless some aluminium. It’s frame has hinges which allow for the entire system to be lifted up (hence the name) and partially disassembled from the boat. Some 2500 Lift-Ups have been crafted over the years. Scarcer is the ‘Circumnavigator‘, with just 400 being built. This model was very complicated and expensive to make, so production ceased, also because the standard model was also up for the task of circumnavigating.

The current Aries is based on the third model, but nowadays it’s build completely in metric, and it has had quite some design and material changes. The country of production is visible on top of the frame. Besides the design factor, this is one of the most obvious indicators of an Aries’ age.

Challenges: Metric versus Imperial

At Aries Vane Gear, we get a lot of questions concerning rebuild kits. They are meant to give older models a new life. This happens often for older, English models that are built with imperial-based parts, but also for later metric models that have got thousands of miles under their ‘belt’.

A lot of boats and their Aries vanes have been thoroughly altered and customized over time. Some vane gears, with and without customizations are 50 year old and still up and running fine. This makes rebuilding The rebuild kits do not guarantee that the Aries will function any better since the vanes are often far from original. The UK built models are also built in imperial units, which adds to the challenges of getting the older vanes up and running again.

We always have rebuild kits for metric units made in Denmark and The Netherlands (from the early ‘90s and onwards) in stock. In the past we have ceased cooperation with third parties for the production of imperial rebuild kits, because the parts did not live up to the Aries standard. Recently we have tried and tested our new imperial rebuild kits and can confirm that they fit superbly. However, the condition of the Vane Gear itself determines weather a rebuild kit would be suitable or not.

For the older models that are in dire need of some love and attention: we still revise older models in the workshop in Amsterdam. Get in touch with us for a quote.

So, should you go for an oldie?

Of course, that’s completely up to you to decide. It’s good to know that we have had many customers in our workshop who wanted a refit done on an older Aries they just bought second hand. Prices for second hand models are often high, and with the addes fees for shipping and the time and money it costs to have some of these older models fully serviced and up and running, the customers could have easily bought a completely new Aries Vane Gear.